Xenia’s Samari Curtis on signing with Nebraska: ‘Couldn’t ask for more’

Samari Curtis’ recruitment is over.


This time he hopes it is permanent.

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Curtis, the high-scoring Xenia High School guard who previously verbally committed to Xavier and then Cincinnati, signed with Nebraska on Wednesday night.

“It feels good to find a good spot for me,” he said Thursday morning. “Good city, good fans, a great program with a great coach. Couldn’t ask for more.”

Curtis didn’t sour on the Musketeers or the Bearcats. He found himself looking around again after both programs lost their coach.

After Chris Mack ditched Xavier for Louisville last spring, Mick Cronin left Cincinnati for UCLA in April.

That is less likely to be a problem with Nebraska, where Fred Hoiberg was recently hired after the school parted ways with Tim Miles.

“He's a great guy,” Curtis said of Hoiberg. “He’s straight-forward. He tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. He’s just a really good developmental coach. He worked with a lot of guys in the pros and got their shots a lot better, so I can really expand my game with him.”

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There is good reason to think both Curtis and his new coach will be Cornhuskers for the long haul.

Hoiberg was a 3-point specialist during a 13-year NBA career that included stops in Indiana, Chicago and Minnesota, and he became one of the hottest names in coaching after taking Iowa State to five straight NCAA tournament appearances.

He parlayed that into a shot coaching the Chicago Bulls, who fired him 24 games into last season.

Hoiberg went only 115-155 with the Bulls but remained highly regarded as a college coach, and Nebraska’s hiring of him was received as a big-time get.

“He really has a foundation in Nebraska,” Curtis said. “His grandfather coached there so I know he’s going to be there for a while.

“He runs a pro offense with a lot of spacing and a lot of shooting. My style.”

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As for the period of time since Cronin was named UCLA coach April 9, Curtis admitted, “It’s been a little crazy.”

Curtis, who was named Ohio's 2019 Mr. Basketball after leading the GWOC in scoring for the third straight season, said he holds no ill will toward his former future coach, however.

“With him leaving, he has to do what’s best for him,” Curtis said of Cronin, a Cincinnati native who spent 13 seasons leading the Bearcats. “It’s a business at the end of the day. I told him congrats. We talked. I had some schools looking at me, but I found a good home in Nebraska. I’m very happy with my decision.”

Curtis said he also considered Colorado and Virginia Tech before settling on the Huskers, whose facilities impressed him quite a bit.

“The arena is like an NBA arena,” he said. "The weigh rooms are really nice. I don’t know if I can single out one thing.”

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Curtis made 224 free throws (eighth most in a single season in OHSAA history) while the young Buccs went 13-11 and finished third in the GWOC American South.

With 2,109 career points, Curtis shattered Robert Siwo’s school scoring record (1,537) while also handing out more than five assists per game last season.

He will join a Nebraska program that last made the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and is likely to have a nearly new roster this fall.

Curtis joins Yvan Ouedraogo, Akol Arop and Kevin Cross as incoming freshmen while Hoiberg also signed junior college transfer Jerry Green and Cam Mack, graduate transfers Matej Kavas and Haanif Cheatham and “traditional” transfers Dalano Banton, Shamiel Stevenson and Derrick Walker.

NU could have an entirely new starting lineup next season if junior forward Isaiah Roby remains in the NBA draft pool.

“Samari is an elite guard,” Hoiberg said in a team release. “He gives us size and length at the guard position and his skillset blends well with the other guards currently on our roster.”

Kent Anderson, the long-time Xenia coach, said he saw a relieved — and drowsy — Curtis walking the hallways at XHS on Thursday.

“They drove back through the middle of the night and he was a little bit red-eyed, but he seemed very much at peace with his decision,” Anderson said. “The last week or so it seemed like he had been quite stressed but today he had a big smile on his face.”

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